Which way? Parents and ministry officials clash over CBC

As schools opened this week, parents complained about long shopping lists for learning materials for the Competence Based Curriculum (CBC).

One Nairobi school required parents whose children were going to Grade One to buy a ream of printing papers, Manila papers, a graph book, coloured pencils, glue, water colours, and several books.

“It is as if this CBC was created to punish parents. I wonder how it is supposed to work for families that have many children in this tough economy,” Brian Okulla twitted.

His tweet attracted comments from other parents who said CBC is very expensive. Most parents said the brief they got when the curriculum was being changed was that the learners will be taught how to improvise but teachers always tell them to buy items. 

In an interview with Saturday Standard, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha said no parent has been asked to buy anything and public schools are providing text books and other basic materials.

“As far as I know, the ministry has not given anyone a list of things to buy for CBC. This system relies heavily on improvising things and for pupils to learn from each other,” he said even as parents were complaining that CBC is weighing them down with assignments.

“They come home with assignments that we are supposed to participate in. I wonder what happens to parents who cannot read and write,” said Maureen Gaitu.

Prof Magoha said they were very deliberate in parental involvement when they were coming up with the syllabus. He said they noticed a disconnect and lack of relationship between parents and children and decided to come up with activities that would bring them together. “There have been many cases of suicide, depression and obvious cases where children are lost because they have no connection with their parents. We give assignments that are meant to build relationships. For instance, in Nyanza, pupils may get an assignment to go with their parents to Lake Victoria and write about what they see,” he said.

He added that CBC does not put all the focus on academics, but also aims at helping the learners develop social skills.

Parents are also questioning the standardisation of the curriculum, claiming that other regions may be disadvantaged, especially those that are outside the city.

“They get assignments to print images and documents. Imagine the stress a child in Mandera would go through trying to complete the assignment,” Gaitu said.

Magoha said CBC focuses on the environment where the children are, and the assignments are supposed to bear in mind the different challenges that the students have.

“You cannot tell a child in the villages to do things that are only possible in the city. I think many parents do not understand CBC,” he said.

There has been confusion on the implementation of the new curriculum, and some teachers have admitted that they are yet to fully grasp how to assess the learners.

“We just rely on the textbooks that have been provided. Parents expect us to have all the answers, but the truth is, we also do not know,” said one of the teachers in Nairobi.

Last month, selected teachers and education officers from different counties underwent a special training to help in the implementation of CBC. The three-day training was a continuation of other sessions that have been done previously to ensure that all the teachers fully comprehend the expectations the ministry has when taking learners through CBC.

The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia said the December training targeted 68,490 teachers. She added that 91,620 teachers were trained in April and 68, 490 in August last year.